How to Pretend You’re in Hawaii Tonight

While your travel plans may be on hold, you can pretend you’re somewhere new for the night. Around the World at Home invites you to channel the spirit of a new place each week with recommendations on how to explore the culture, all from the comfort of your home.

Beyond the palm trees and mai tais is the Hawaii many tourists never come to know: islands with enduring traditions of myth and storytelling, home to endangered species, taro fields, and beaches where surfing doesn’t require a board and the smoky scent of kalua pig wafts through the night.

ImageFrom left, Iao Valley in West Maui, Mughal Garden outside of the Shangri La Museum of Islamic Art, Culture & Design in Honolulu, and a coral reef at Pearl and Hermes Atoll.
Credit…From left, Susan Seubert for The New York Times; Elyse Butler for The New York Times; Doris Duke Foundation for Islamic Art, Honolulu, Hawai‘i; Louiz Rocha/Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument, via Associated Press

Yet with a few easy-to-find items you can discover Hawaii’s breathtaking biodiversity wherever you are, savor the flavors and music of the archipelago, make fragrant flower lei and virtually gather friends and family for an island-inspired Thanksgiving around your own table.

Credit…Cory Lum for The New York Times

“The best way to conjure Hawaii is to whip out the liquid smoke to kalua some pig, set Spotify to search Ledward Kaapana’s slack-key guitar, call on your old friends to talk story and keep your hands busy,” said Melanie Ide, the president and chief executive of the Bishop Museum, the natural and cultural history museum in Honolulu.

But first, the pig. “There’s really nothing easier or better to go alongside your turkey for a long Thanksgiving eating weekend,” said Ms. Ide. Her ingredients: Pork butt or shoulder with skin and fat, rock salt (ideally, alaea salt) and liquid smoke, which she said was available in grocery stores. “Pierce the meat with a fork, drizzle with liquid smoke, rub with salt, wrap in foil and roast,” she said. Use banana leaves instead of foil if possible (or put the skin of a green banana in the roasting pan), and cook at 300 degrees for several hours. Shred when done. (If you can’t get liquid smoke, a New York Times Cooking recipe uses smoked paprika.)

Credit…From left, Marco Garcia for The New York Times; Michelle Mishina-Kunz for The New York Times; Paul Aiken/Digital First Media, via Getty Images

Kalua pig can be enjoyed any time of day. For breakfast, Ms. Ide recommends kalua pig benedict garnished with scallions. For lunch, a pulled pork burrito. And dinner? “Eat it straight up with an extra sprinkle of Hawaiian salt, raw onion and poi, or fresh hot rice,” she said.

Credit…Burl Burlingame/Honolulu Star-Bulletin, via Associated Press

Hawaii “emerges as a damaged paradise — a place of violent, magical beauty,” wrote the critic Michiko Kakutani about Susanna Moore’s early novels (“My Old Sweetheart,” “The Whiteness of Bones”). For a history of the archipelago where Ms. Moore grew up, consider “Paradise of the Pacific.”

Speaking of childhoods in Hawaii, Mr. Obama’s “Dreams From My Father: A Story of Race and Inheritance” takes readers to the islands of his youth and beyond. (An essay in The Times, “Want to Be Less Racist? Move to Hawaii” and a follow-up piece, “Is Hawaii’s Racial Harmony a Myth?,” explore the islands and racial identity.) “A Promised Land,” another memoir by Mr. Obama, was published this month.

The islands have inspired generations of writers (Mark Twain among them), though “one of the best ways to learn and think Hawaiian is to read a proverb a day” from “ʻŌlelo Noʻeau: Hawaiian Proverbs & Poetical Sayings,” said Ms. Ide. The book is also on Honolulu magazine’s thoughtful list, “50 Essential Hawai‘i Books You Should Read in Your Lifetime.”

Credit…Tamir Kalifa for The New York Times (left and far right); Mario Tama/Getty Images (center)

Peer (safely) into the calderas of volcanoes with webcams, curriculum materials and science podcasts on the Hawaii Volcanoes National Park website. Along the way, meet locals like the Hawaiian hawksbill turtle and the wild nēnē (goose), and listen to the dawn chorus.

Few things can lift your spirits while stuck at home better than fresh flowers and creating something by hand. In Hawaii, flower lei are often given at celebrations and, as the Hawaii Tourism Authority puts it, “are considered symbols of status when used in traditional ceremonies.” And, of course, they are also used to welcome people to Hawaii and say farewell when they go. To learn how to make your own, check out “Hawaiian Lei Making: A Step-by-Step Guide” by Laurie Shimizu Ide, (no relation to Ms. Ide at the Bishop Museum) or try Maui Nō Ka ʻOi Magazine’s online instructions. On YouTube, Kuana Torres Kahele, a musician and hula practitioner, will teach you how to make a haku-style lei.

Credit…Brian Bielmann/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images
Credit…From left, Walt Disney Pictures; Mike May/National Geographic; Fox Searchlight Pictures

Transport yourself to the shores of Hawaii with feel-good films. For families with young children, Walt Disney Pictures’ “Lilo and Stitch,’’ a Times Critic’s Pick, in which a creature from another planet lands in Hawaii, is an ode to family, or ohana, and a fun introduction to the islands, especially when paired with National Geographic’s docuseries “Wild Hawaii” (both on Disney Plus). Follow a descendant of Hawaiian royalty as he comes to grips with his land and grief in “The Descendants,” an Academy Award winner and another Times Critic’s Pick. Or go back in time to 1918 with the acclaimed “Picture Bride,” about a teenager from Japan who travels to Hawaii for an arranged marriage, directed by Honolulu-born Kayo Hatta and co-written with her sister, Mari Hatta.

The sounds of a palm forest envelop you in this meditative video from the Merwin Conservancy, which safeguards the Maui home and 19-acre palm forest of W.S. Merwin, the former United States poet laureate and two-time Pulitzer Prize winner. You’ll soon forget you’re at home.


How are you going to channel the spirit of Hawaii in your home? Share your ideas in the comments.

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Stephanie Rosenbloom, the author of “Alone Time: Four Seasons, Four Cities, and the Pleasures of Solitude” (Viking), has been writing travel, business and styles features for The Times for nearly two decades. Twitter: @Stephronyt. Instagram: @StephanieRosenbloom

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